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[b]The Flying Dutchman, Birmingham 17th March 2006[/b]

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Joined: 30 Oct 2004
Posts: 263
Location: Worcester

PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2006 12:05 pm    Post subject: [b]The Flying Dutchman, Birmingham 17th March 2006[/b] Reply with quote

I had the most fantastic seats for this performance. I’d been assured by the friend of a friend, who is the Front of House Manager for the Hippodrome Theatre that I had two of the best seats in the house; and he was quite correct, I had.
We had seats 23 & 24 in row G of the stalls, which due to the inclusion of the orchestra pit meant that row G was actually the third row from the stage, and our seats were absolutely dead centre to the stage. I did think that my luck would probably not hold out and that I’d end up with an incredibly tall person sitting in front of me, completely obscuring my view. However, the Gods were with me, and although I ended up with a woman with an extremely bouffant hairstyle sitting in front of me, due to the staggered nature of the seats and the fact that she was “listing” very far to the right and the fact that the man in front of her had a distinct “list” to the left I had a clear and uninterrupted view of the stage throughout the whole performance.

The stage at the Hippodrome is considerably smaller in both width and depth in comparison to the WMC (I recently read that the WMC has the 2nd largest stage in the UK). This smaller stage meant that the apex of the screens was much nearer to the front of the stage, leaving only about a 6 foot gap between the apex and the edge of the stage, which pushed all of the action of the opera forward. The combination of this and my closeness to the stage really made me feel totally caught up in the action.

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of The Dutchman I saw in Cardiff, although I cannot say that I was a fan of the staging of the production itself. I thought Bryn was excellent in Cardiff, and did not think he could possibly better that performance, but how wrong I was.

The whole performance on Friday night had an “edge” to it that had not been present in the Cardiff performance. I can only attribute that to perhaps the fact that it was Bryn’s final performance of the Dutchman in this particular production and everyone was giving their utmost to make it very special and memorable.
I know from experience that there is invariably something special, almost magical about last night performances; you often reach the point where you finally feel that you have mastered a role and are fully in command of it; and Bryn’s performance last night certainly gave that impression. In fact I would say that the whole cast seemed to have an extra frisson in their performance. Gidon Saks seemed to have considerably stepped up his performance, both acting and singing wise on Friday, compared to Cardiff. I enjoyed his performance in Cardiff, but was slightly disappointed as I felt that he was capable of so much more than he was giving. On Friday night he seemed to be much more in command and more comfortable with the role of Daland than he had been in Cardiff. He was in fine voice, his lovely rich bass resonating around the theatre; he was also singing much more confidently; he definitely sounded as though he had found his stride, and there was much more intensity and self assurance in both his acting and his singing which culminated in a most impressive performance.

I had been very impressed in Cardiff by both Annalena Perrson’s singing and acting ability; and she seems to have gone from strength to strength in the three weeks since I first saw her; she has definitely grown into the role of Senta. Her voice was as clear as a bell, easily and effortlessly hitting the top notes.
I have to say that once again I was rather disappointed by Mary Lloyd-Davies as Mary, whose voice was continually drowned by both the orchestra and the superb chorus of Welsh National Opera, who were as impressive as ever.
I was also once again disappointed by Ian Storey as Eric; the tenor is not my favourite male voice (give me a bass-baritone any day), but having said that I can and do appreciate singers with fine tenor voices, but in my opinion, he does not possess such voice; I found him very thin and reedy.

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to see The Dutchman again, as I found that this time I was able to concentrate more fully on the glorious music and the acting and singing rather than feeling continually distracted by the constant movement of the screens. The staging did not feel as obtrusive this time, presumably because I knew what to expect. However, I still could not fathom the director’s reasoning in constantly separating the Dutchman and Senta, so that during the love duet they were rarely in the same space. Particularly nonsensical was Daland’s comment, which was something along the lines of “I’m intruding, and you want to be alone”, and the Dutchman wasn’t even on the stage at the time!!

Bryn gave a towering performance, and was what I can only describe as phenomenal; I will admit to being totally riveted and enthralled whenever he was on stage.
He seems to have expanded the role since I saw it three weeks ago, and seemed to be much more at ease with the role and what I personally consider to be problematical staging and awful direction. He was completely at “one” with the role of the Dutchman on Friday night, imbuing it with even more intensity and mastery.
Having such fantastic seats and being so close to the stage meant that I could clearly see every expression and nuance, and the gamut of emotions that ran across Bryn’s face throughout the opera. I was totally transfixed whenever he was on the stage; he has such a commanding stage presence that your eyes are instinctively drawn to wherever he is. Actually, you could sense his presence even when he was not on stage, just before he made an entrance, particularly when he was on the raised platform. Several times I found my eyes inexorably wandering to the platform without really knowing or understanding why, and then literally a second later Bryn would appear in the exact spot that my eyes had rested on; his stage presence really is mesmerising.

Vocally Bryn was superb; his diction as impeccable as ever. His impassioned singing of “Die Frist ist um” literally had me on the edge of my seat; his rich dark tones reverberated with awesome power around the auditorium, as the Dutchman vehemently rails against his plight. Bryn’s vocal range is stunning within this role, going from an immense wall of powerful sound to haunting pianissimo.
Bryn’s sublime singing was equally matched by his extraordinary acting capacity; he is just so talented. He succinctly presented us with a man who is weary with life; a man longing for death as a way to terminate the endless wandering and suffering he endures. All these emotions were so tangible in Bryn’s whole demeanour; from the way that he held his body, his movements, to his facial expressions, but most tellingly the expression in his eyes; through the anguish and longing expressed through his eyes you really felt that you could see right into the heart of the Dutchman’s tormented soul. I have to admit that being so close and being able to vividly see every expression on Bryn’s face and in his eyes, made more sense of the video projections of the Dutchman’s and Senta’s faces and eyes on the screen; I can’t really put it into words, but there seemed to be some correlation there.

I had not realised in Cardiff that after the Dutchman enfolds Senta in his coat at the end of the opera up on the walkway, that they were then both suspended behind the screens, giving the impression of swimming/floating toward each other for reunion in death. This was only just visible from the 3rd row of the stalls in the Hippodrome, as the stage lighting was dire at this point, so I am sure would have been lost to most of the rest of the auditorium. It was not visible from my seat at the WMC (an excellent seat in the stalls). The floating/swimming towards each other made a much more satisfactory ending, and brought about completion; and although it wasn’t Senta plunging off a cliff to redeem the Dutchman, it was much better than the misapprehension I had been under in Cardiff, that their end was being huddled together in the Dutchman’s coat!!

The applause and calls at the end of the opera were unbelievable; the audience in unison erupted into thunderous clapping and calls of “bravo”; the most rapturous deservedly reserved for Bryn whose amazing performance mere superlatives can not fully do justice to.

My friend who accompanied me, after reading the reviews rather wished she was going somewhere else for the evening, as she was convinced she would hate the entire opera, so it was with some trepidation at the end of the performance that I asked her what she’d thought of it; she stunned me by saying that she had loved it and that she thought the staging was fabulous, and that in particular she liked the screens and the use of the videos of the close-ups of the Dutchman and Senta’s faces. She had nothing but praise for what she termed “Bryn’s awesome performance”.

I had a fabulous and truly memorable evening and feel privileged to have seen Bryn’s final performance of the Dutchman for this particular production, but I still personally did not like the staging. Setting it on a space ship still struck me as completely nonsensical, especially when the music and the lyrics unequivocally conjure up images of stormy, tempestuous sea, so much so, that you can almost taste the salt water on your lips; so I was still, like Bryn, left yearning for a bit of rigging and a mast.
Jools xox
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Joined: 05 Mar 2005
Posts: 49
Location: Birmingham

PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2006 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


I have to agree with every word of your review. My husband and I were sitting a few seats further along from you, if we had only known it, and I felt so involved in the action, being so close to the stage. We'd been to Tuesdays performance, where we were sitting in the circle, which meant we were on a level with the walkway at the top of the stage. From here it was much easier to see Senta and the Dutchman floating in space at the end (you could however still just about see Bryn and Annalena Perrson at the back of the walkway). Sitting in the stalls I found I was able to partially ignore the staging (which I don't like and find makes a nonsense of the words and music a lot of the time) and concentrate on the singing. Bryn was so magnificent at the end that he had me nearly in tears when he thinks he has lost all chance of salvation. I think this is a performance that will long live in the memory and I look forward to hearing it on the radio where I can imagine the setting as it should be while listening to the glorious singing.

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Joined: 07 Nov 2005
Posts: 239
Location: Herefordshire

PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2006 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Jools and Anne for your "critique"...it was excellent.
My husband and I only saw the performace on SC4 but we sat for the nearly two and a half hours entranced.
To have seen it as you were able, must be something you will always remember....thank you for sharing it
At the end of the day, wherever you are
May you holdin your hands, the wings of
a dream
Hold in your memory the smile of a friend
And hold in your heart a wish for tomorrow
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Joined: 19 Aug 2005
Posts: 839
Location: Staffordshire Moorlands

PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Jools, Anne and Vera
How I enjoyed reading these posts! I know I am getting off the subject a bit, but we were at the performance on Tuesday 14th and there has not been a post about this. Ivan and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Marilyn and other Terfeliaid members in the Ibis and the bar at the Hippodrome beforehand, and it was only our second Bryn 'live' performance and Ivan's first opera. We had wonderful seats in Row H of the stalls and we were both absolutely enthralled. As Jools, I could not take my eyes off Bryn when he was on stage - the setting did not affect me in any way being only too aware of what to expect - and he was so magnificent, both the glorious singing, facial expressions and 'prescence'. I do so envy those of you who are able to attend his performances so often, but it just makes the ones we can attend so much more special.
Gillian Laughing Laughing
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